STANLEY SHELDON | ROCK DIARY
John Bonham, Tommy Bolin & Myself, 1975
Back in Los Angeles, coke and smack were everywhere. All one had to do in order to cop was to ask a friend, or any stranger on the street for that matter. When we wanted to get high, we would hang out at a little private club above the Roxy on Sunset Boulevard, called, appropriately enough, “On the Rocks.” This was strictly an elite club, for celebrities only. One night Tommy Bolin and I happened to be up there together. We were both in town, Deep Purple (Tommy) was out in Malibu rehearsing for their upcoming world tour, and I was in town riding the wave of Peter Frampton’s recent success. We were having drinks and yuking it up at the bar when we realized we were sitting next to John Bonham, and he was there all alone! Bonham knew who Tommy was from the Billy Cobham recording (Spectrum) and let Tommy know that he was a big fan, and of course the feeling was mutual. Bonham was such a legend. Before he died, (and even more so after) he was revered by just about every musician on the planet. Belying his imposing physical stature and gruff manner, underneath the rough exterior he was really just a big “teddy bear.” I remember asking him about what I had always reckoned to be a very complex time signature on a particular Led Zeppelin song, called “Black Dog.” “How does that work now” I said, “ba-ba-ba-bum-pa-pa-pa,” Bonham cut me off, and with the patented British deadpan expression, he simply mumbled “It’s 4/4 mate.”
Bonham and Tommy talked for a long time about the Spectrum album and Billy Cobham, and of course Led Zeppelin. When we were all about to leave when Bonham spontaneously invited Tommy and I, and our girlfriends Karen and Judy, back to his hotel room in order to keep the party going. Well of course we went. This was one of the most memorable evenings I can ever remember spending. Bonham was such a lovable character. We sat chatting with him for hours that night, while his roadie kept making periodic strolls through the suite to make sure everybody had enough dope – one plate with white lines – another with more sinister beige ones. It is terribly ironic that the “activities” we were enjoying so much at the time would, in a matter of one or two years, take the lives of both of the gentlemen I was sitting there with. Bonham was serenely high, and as we chatted away into the early morning, he had told us how he loved to build his own furniture back home in England. “I love to work with my hands” he told me. Well, give him a couple of huge double B wooden drumsticks and watch him work! I’ll never forget that night.